The hospital ship USNS Comfort that’s been docked in New York since last Monday, has only 20 patients, according to the New York Times. The USNS Mercy docked in Los Angeles has only 15 patients.
The ships were never meant to treat coronavirus patients and were admitting only those who tested negative. But bizarre rules and bureaucratic bungling have made the task of filling those ships with patients a lot harder than it should be.
The Navy is refusing to treat nearly 50 conditions, and ambulances are unable to take patients directly to the vessel. Ambulances must first bring patients to a hospital for an evaluation, including a test for COVID-19, and then deliver them to the ship.
“If I’m blunt about it, it’s a joke,” said Michael Dowling, the head of Northwell Health, New York’s largest hospital system. “Everyone can say, ‘Thank you for putting up these wonderful places and opening up these cavernous halls.’ But we’re in a crisis here, we’re in a battlefield.”
Though the ships were meant to take patients suffering from ailments other than coronavirus, there is not the usual volume of noncoronavirus patients with most New Yorkers isolating themselves in their homes, meaning there are fewer injuries that would require an emergency room visit.
The sad fact is, neither the Comfort or the Mercy were designed to deal with a pandemic infection. They don’t have the facilities or the personnel. They were supposed to take patients with non-virus conditions, but the roadblocks put in place by the Navy are slowing admittances to a crawl.
That might be changing as CNN is reporting that a negative coronavirus test will no longer be required for admittance onboard the ship.
The USNS Comfort, a hospital ship docked in New York City, will now take patients aboard that are not showing symptoms of Covid-19, according to a Federal Emergency Management Agency fact sheet on the ship.
Previously, patients had to have a negative test from their discharging hospital before being admitted on to the ship.
The change in procedure was done in an effort to bring more patients aboard the USNS Comfort.
Patients who are brought aboard the ship without symptoms of Covid-19 will be isolated and tested upon arrival. Any patient that tests positive for coronavirus will be transferred to a hospital that is treating Covid-19 patients, according to the FEMA fact sheet.
There’s still the problem of getting ambulance patients to the ship in the first place. That’s an entirely local problem that needs to be addressed by the mayor’s office and the Port Authority.
You would hope that these snafus would be ironed out and these ships would begin serving the public as best they can.